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Don’t Leave Anybody Behind: The moral and business case to achieve social justice

In light of the World Day of Social Justice this week (February 20th), we decided it would be fitting to write a blog in honour of those facing injustice around the world.

Researching into how social injustice is defined, it became very apparent how encompassing the term is...

One widely accepted definition is:

‘Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.’ [i]

Therefore to us, social justice translates to 'don't leave anybody behind' - or rather no person or people should should be marginalized or left out of the 'wealth, opportunities and privileges' that allow anyone in a society to be as happy, healthy and prosperous as they can possibly be.

Kate Raworth maintains when introducing her theory of social thresholds that ‘there is always a question of how limited resources are to be distributed and used. If that question is left unspoken, it can lead to political stalemate, injustice, and suffering.’ [ii] Hence, this blog will briefly explore the twelve social thresholds and how injustice and inaction in these social realms lead to real costs not just to society, but to business too. In particular, this blog will examine where there are gaps, where people, communities and nations are being left behind, and where the opportunities thus lie in closing the gap.

Access to Food

  • 795 million people (11% of the global population) are hungry and starving, whilst every 10 seconds, a child dies from hunger-related diseases year. [iii]

  • Addressing social thresholds related to food could be worth over US$2.3 trillion annually for the private sector by 2030. [iv]

Access to Healthcare

  • Vaccination efforts made in the world’s poorest countries since 2001 will have prevented 20 million deaths by 2020. [v]

  • Researchers looked at both short- and long-term costs that could be saved preventing illness. The world could have saved $350 billion in health-care costs. [vi]

Access to Education

  • Without urgent action, the prospects for more than 124 million children and young people lacking access to schools and more than 250 million not learning necessary skills are severely diminished. [vii]

  • A better-educated population would add rocket fuel to economic growth in the developing world. For instance, according to the OECD if all 15-year-olds achieved a basic level of education, Ghana could increase its GDP by 3,881% and South Africa by 2,624%. [viii]

Income and Work

  • An estimated 766 million people, or 10.7 percent of the world’s population, lived in extreme poverty in 2013.In total, there are over 700 million workers employed directly and indirectly in global supply chains. [ix]

  • Treating them with respect and paying them a decent wage would go a long way to building a more inclusive society and expanding consumer markets. Investing in their training, enabling men and women to fulfil their potential, would deliver further returns through higher labour productivity.

Access to Water and Sanitation

  • Globally it is estimated that 2.4 billion people still lack improved sanitation. The number of people who lack access to an improved source of drinking water has fallen below 700 million people – to 663 million – for the first time. Yet 319 million Sub Saharan people alone still do not have access to clean water, the most of any region. [x]

  • Nations must pour up to US$150 billion a year (quadrupled investment) into efforts to deliver safe and clean water for all, or risk an economic crisis due to the healthcare and development impacts of people drinking filthy water. [xi]

Access to Energy

  • Great inequality in energy consumption persists, with 1.2 billion people still lacking access to electricity. [xii]

  • This energy deficit forms a formidable barrier to inclusive growth and poverty reduction that shows limited signs of abating. Already, researchers using World Bank data have estimated that Africa misses out on 2–4% a year in GDP growth due to power shortages. [xiii]


  • Of the world’s 7 billion people, only 2.7 billion have access to the internet while the vast majority of the 4.3 billion that remain unconnected are typically the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged populations. [xiv]

  • Recent study estimates that if there were similar levels of internet access in the developing world as there is in the developed world, the resulting economic activity could generate £2.2 trillion in additional GDP, a 72% increase in the GDP growth rate, and more than 140 million new jobs. [xv]


  • 1.6 billion people living in inadequate housing, one billion of whom reside in slums and informal settlements. [xvi]

  • According to HFHI, every job created in the housing sector generates two more jobs elsewhere in the economy. Decent homes provide a base for small business owners and empower female heads of households, and they are also associated with improved labor productivity among employees and better learning outcomes for children. [xvii]

Gender Equality

  • The earnings gap between women and men has widened since 2008, at 59%. Though the gap is much less in developed countries, developing countries have a long way to go to achieve social justice in gender pay. [xviii]

  • Recent research indicates that achieving gender parity alone would add at least US$12 trillion to global growth by 2025. [xix]

Social Equity

  • Oxfam’s latestreport shows that 42 people hold as much wealth as the 3.7 billion who make up the poorest half of the world’s population. [xx]

  • Growth is suppressed in economically unequal societies, after a phase of increased growth, by the decreasing availability of investments for human capital. Physical capital becomes increasingly scarce, as fewer individuals have funds to invest in training and education. As a result, demands for human capital are difficult or impossible to meet, and economic growth stalls. As an additional consequence, market demands increase for risky unsecured loans, which increase lenders’ risk exposure to the borrower’s default. More risks in the markets increase market volatility and the possibility of cascading defaults such as the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.


  • An estimated 40.3 million people were victims of slavery worldwide. Women accounted for 71% (29 million), while children constituted 25% (10 million) of modern slaves. [xxi]

  • The ILO estimate that $32bn (£21bn) is made by criminals from modern slavery every year. anti-slavery organisations must start working together to effectively make the case to governments and the private sector of the economic benefits of eliminating slavery, over and above the unarguable moral case to end this atrocity. [xxii]

Peace and Justice

  • In 2014, the world spent 9.1 percent of its GDP on costs associated with violence. According to the IMF, the cost of bribery is roughly 2 percent of global GDP, and illicit flows from developing countries are over US$1 trillion. [xxiii]

  • In a survey of more than 1000 executives, almost one in five claimed to have lost resources-resources-business due to a competitor paying bribes.[xxiv] Furthermore, More than half of the 70,000 people interviewed in 69 countries for TI’s 2009 Global Corruption Barometer said they were willing to pay more to buy from corruption-free companies. [xxv]

Concluding Thoughts...

As is apparent from this blog, we have a long way before we can safely say that we haven't left anybody behind and we have achieved social justice around the world - not just in developed countries. It will therefore require action from governments and corporations to use their influence and resources to make really meaningful change. Social justice can only be realized if we understand that there are real business opportunities to be had from the unacceptable inequities in wealth and privileges.

If the concept of social thresholds interested you (even if the facts distressed you), then please have a look at our research - which delves into what sustainability targets and measures the world's largest corporations publicly disclose.


For full references and links, please contact Article 13 at

[i], [accessed 07/02/18]

[ii] Kate Raworth, Defining a Safe and Just Space for Humanity, 2012

[iii] FAO, The State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2015

[iv] Business Commission, Better Business, Better World, 2016

[v] University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 2017

[vi] University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 2017

[vii] Business Commission, Better Business, Better World, 2016

[viii] OECD, 2015


[x] WHO/UNICEF JMP 2015 report

[xi] World Bank, 2017, Reducing Inequalities in Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene in the Era of the Sustainable Development Goals : Synthesis Report of the WASH Poverty Diagnostic Initiative

[xii] WEO-2017 Special Report: Energy Access Outlook

[xiii] Shell Corp, 2014 Accelerating Access to Energy Report

[xiv] Deloitte, 2014, Value of Connectivity report

[xv] Deloitte, 2014, Value of Connectivity report

[xvi] UN News Service, 2 Oct 2017

[xvii] Sourced from Devex, Why proper housing for the poor makes economic sense, 2015

[xviii] WEF, 2017

[xix] McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth,

[xx] Oxfam, 2018, Reward work, not wealth Report

[xxi] ILO, 2017

[xxii] ILO, 2017

[xxiii] Business Commission, Better Business, Better World, 2016

[xxiv] Ernst & Young, 'Corruption or Compliance – weighing the costs 10th Global Fraud Survey'

[xxv] Global Corruption Report: Education TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL

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